The End is the final work in a trilogy of prophetic, animated mice, voiced by the artist's young daughters. In each, the mouse appears from the debris of a hole in a wall to philosophise, commanding the room with a tiny, innocent voice, inviting the visitor to kneel down to hear what it has to say. In the first in the series, '2000 year collaboration (The Prophet)' (2018), the mouse addresses the room, recounting a speech inspired by Charlie Chaplin in the 1940 film, The Great Dictator. Using the structure of this positive moral and ethical oration, written at such a critical time in history, Gander has re-written it from a post-simulacrum, or post-digital perspective, an unimaginable future without the crutches of instant information gratification. In the second work I... I... I... (2019), similarly written by Gander and narrated by his eldest daughter, the mouse evidently has something pivotal to say but struggles to get the words out. The frustration is palpable and reminds us all of our need to be heard.
In the third, final speech of the series—The End—the mouse, now voiced by Gander's youngest daughter, delivers a profound sermon on some of the biggest questions that face humanity from our ability to cognitively time travel to our limitations in being able to foresee our own end. The work has an apocalyptic undertone but invites an embrace of the inevitability of mortality, and how the healthy acceptance of this can give us a renewed energy and optimism—'to make the most of the time and attention that we have'.
The End (2020), was completed just before the outbreak of coronavirus and yet seems to be written in relation to this epic transformation in all our lives. Gander comments: 'Some people refer to them as little prophets, and they're meant to predict the future in some way, or possible versions of what the future could hold, but when I was writing the script I had no idea of what was about to transpire. Now, the work encapsulates a moment in the history of humankind and predicts something, and talks about something, that affected and is affecting now, every soul on the planet.'
In each work in the series, the mouse demands our attention by refusing to be the one that shouts the loudest. As Gander states, 'In this era where there's a lot of noise and flashing and blinking and worrying and beeping and bright colours and shiny surfaces and reflections and a rainbow and loud noises and whoops and bangs—all of which are aimed at commanding our attention—that actually, you don't need to shout anymore, that a whisper will suffice. And sometimes a whisper commands greater attention because society has realised that the things that grab our attention are often the things that aren't valid and valuable information.' Gander goes on to say that, 'as predictors, as mini prophets, as protagonists that speculate about a future, the trilogy of mice all talk about time. And time really feels to me like it is the subject of our time. The art world is saturated with artworks and exhibitions about identity politics and about the internet and about things that are now. But now is not the subject of now. Time and the future is the subject of our time. Time is all that we have left and attention is our greatest asset.
Press release courtesy Lisson Gallery.